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African tech companies must work harder than ever to attract and retain top talent – ​​TechEconomy Nigeria

The past few years have been huge for the African tech space. Thanks to significant investments in infrastructure, connectivity has become increasingly ubiquitous and affordable.

The addressable market for technology-driven solutions has grown tremendously with millions of people going online.

Investors have taken notice of this growth, with startups across the continent attracting a record $4 billion in funding in 2021. Despite turbulence in other tech markets, things haven’t slowed down on the continent yet. In the first half of 2022 alone, more than $3.5 billion was raised.

Along with the expansion of global tech giants into Africa, this rapid growth has made it harder than ever for African tech companies to attract and retain top talent.

The growth of remote and hybrid working, spurred by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, is further compounding the problem. African tech companies are no longer just competing for talent in the geographies they operate in, but with companies based in Europe, America and Asia.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. It simply means that companies operating on the continent must adapt to these new realities and adapt the way they attract and retain talent.

A borderless approach

Take the rise of remote and hybrid working for example. The pandemic has shown many companies that what people do shouldn’t be limited by where they are.

This is something we have known for a long time at MFS Africa and we have long considered workforce distribution to be central to our vision of making borders non-existent.

Even then, we had to make adjustments. While we had a number of offices across the continent with some of our team members working remotely from Europe, India and other parts of the continent, we were always office first.

The pandemic has challenged us to think differently. As we interviewed and onboarded people in a fully digital way, we also began to expand our own definitions of borderless workplaces.

Three years ago we would have preferred people to work in the office, today we encourage people to find the model that works best for them while ensuring that teams meet face-to-face often enough to encourage strong collaboration and psychological safety.

With remote and hybrid work now the norm, especially in the technology sector, African companies would be reckless to limit themselves geographically when it comes to recruitment. I can guarantee that the candidates you are looking to attract are not limiting their options in the same way.

So if you are based in Cape Town and you find an ideal candidate based in Nairobi, why would you stop yourself from hiring them or force them to change countries to work for you?

There are, of course, businesses that will survive and perhaps even thrive with an entirely on-site workforce. I’m also not suggesting that anyone give up their offices (we have offices in some places where people can work full time if they want to). But all businesses need to understand that without embracing agility, they are limiting the pool of technology talent available to them.

Work with a purpose

Of course, simply offering remote and hybrid work options doesn’t guarantee that a tech company will be able to attract and retain the best talent possible. One of the biggest trends I’ve noticed after the pandemic is that people increasingly want to work for companies that do meaningful work, and where their own purpose and values ​​align with those of the company.

For the right type of African business, this actually represents an advantage and may even enable them to recruit from among global tech players.

You can have a tech company just for being a tech company and the barrier to entry is pretty low. If you have the right technical skills and the right connectivity, you can start one tomorrow. But many African tech workers have a real awareness of the challenges facing the continent and want to help address those challenges.

As such, the real differentiator for tech companies on the African continent is the ability to solve real problems. Of course, the big tech players will always have some appeal, but they tend to deal with higher order issues and are generally not able to solve uniquely African problems.

As a result, the candidates ask themselves “why not see how this company solves this problem in the region? And is solving this problem something that I think makes sense on an individual level? »

The same is true when it comes to retaining employees. They need to feel that the company they work for has a real sense of purpose and is able to adapt to Africa’s ever-changing challenges.

Tell your story effectively

But if African tech companies are to take full advantage of this point of differentiation, they must be able to tell their story. It doesn’t always come naturally, especially for companies that don’t want to look like they’re bragging. But think about it from the perspective of a potential employee.

If you come across a role that looks great at an unfamiliar company, the first thing you’ll do is Google the company. It is therefore essential that the company tells its story effectively and demonstrates that it does everything it says it does.

It should also be clear that the type of talent companies are looking for can be spotted immediately if a company does not do so transparently and honestly.

The benefits of having to work harder

Ultimately, there is no doubt that African businesses need to work harder than ever to attract and retain tech talent. Rather than bemoan the situation, however, businesses on the continent should see it as an opportunity.

If they strive to be the kind of company that top talent wants to work for, the kind of company that solves real challenges, that can only translate into a better company.

This doesn’t just benefit individual businesses either. The more seriously African tech companies take recruitment and retention, the better the results will be for the sector and the continent.